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Hite to lead educational nonprofit, as search continues for new Philly superintendent

Current candidate pool is dominated by men and people of color, search committee chair says

A man standing at a lectern

Superintendent William Hite will become the CEO of an educational nonprofit in July. When he first announced his departure in September he agreed to stay on during the search process for his replacement.

Darryl Murphy/The Notebook

Superintendent William Hite will become the CEO of the educational nonprofit KnowledgeWorks on July 1, according to statements from the Cincinnati-based nonprofit and the Philadelphia Board of Education.

On Monday, the search committee charged with finding his successor plans to provide an update on its progress. Hite has said he will remain in the role during the search process.

KnowledgeWorks describes its mission as working with school districts and communities to develop “innovative educational approaches” and be a leader in creating “the future of learning.”

“Our vision is that every student experiences meaningful personalized learning that enables them to thrive in college, career and civic life,” according to its website. “We are faced with a moral imperative. The future of learning needs to be equitable, learner-centered, flexible and resilient.” 

In a statement, board Chair Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds said in announcing Hite’s appointment that the organization “will benefit tremendously from his significant experience in the K-12 space and his focus on innovation and quality” as it looks to scale up its focus on “personalized, competency-based learning.”

When he announced his impending departure in September, Hite, who became superintendent in 2012, said he would remain in Philadelphia until the end of this school year. “Dr. Hite will be instrumental in the plan to onboard his successor, and we look forward to collaborating with him to support a smooth transition to a new superintendent,” Board of Education President Joyce Wilkerson said in a statement. 

Letitia Egea-Hinton, vice president of the board, said in an interview that among the pool of candidates currently under consideration, 71% identify as male, 64% are Black and 20% Latino. One in five – 21% – are or have been in leadership in the Philadelphia school district, she said.

Egea-Hinton did not not say how many people are still in the pool, however. “It’s still a fluid group,” she said. 

The board’s timeline in finding Hite’s successor calls for it to “move from five top candidates to finalists” in February to March, followed by public forums with the finalists in March, and an announcement of the final choice later in the spring. 

“We are both excited and encouraged by the caliber of applicants and candidates who have met and exceeded our qualifications criteria,” Wilkerson’s statement said.  

Egea-Hinton said the committee started out with about 400 candidates, even though many school districts are looking for new leaders. It is working with the search firm Isaacson, Miller and has a 13-member superintendent advisory committee of community leaders, business representatives, clergy and educators.

The committee conducted 48 “listening sessions” around the city, engaged about 50 community groups, and got more than 3,900 responses to a survey sent out in the fall asking what people sought in a new district leader, according to the district’s website. 

All of the candidates, she said, have either had experience in education or led major institutions, and have experience working with diverse communities. Two-thirds are currently school administrators. 

Asked whether the committee was considering a nontraditional candidate, she said, “We’re looking in all directions and possibilities.” 

Despite the difficulties involved in running a large urban school district, “We haven’t experienced a lack of interest,” Egea-Hinton said, even though “the environment in searching for a superintendent is a challenging one.” 

While the current pool is dominated by men, Egea-Hinton said “that could change if more people apply. We want the best superintendent we can get.”

In its history, Philadelphia has had two female superintendents, Constance Clayton and Arlene Ackerman. Several other women have led the district on an interim basis. Clayton, Ackerman, and Hite have been the district’s only Black superintendents.

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